A new whiskey has been released that is the product of an unlikely collaboration between Sydney's Young Henrys Brewing Company and Jameson Irish Whiskey.
Young Henrys is one of Australia's larger independent breweries, but still a relative minnow of the global drinks industry in comparison to whiskey giant Jameson.
Jameson Caskmates Young Henrys Edition is a new limited edition whiskey that has resulted from an extended courting period between the two businesses.
"Young Henrys has always drunk Jameson when we're out, as a rule," explains brewery co-founder Oscar McMahon.
"Our relationship with Jameson started through doing some events. Through that connection we ended up really getting along with the people that work for Jameson and it turned into a great relationship."
The red barrel
The first product of the collaboration was Craic & Barrel, an Irish Red Ale aged in Jameson Irish Whiskey casks released by Young Henrys last October.
"It was one of the best beers that we've ever made. We went for a spicy red ale and it took on this amazing rich, woody character, with cherry and spice notes. It was a really complex, really delicious beer," says McMahon.
Ten freshly soaked red ale barrels were then emptied and sent back on the 17,000km journey from Newtown, Sydney to the home of Jameson in Midleton, Co. Cork where they were re-acquainted with mature Irish whiskey.
"What is amazing about barrels is that when you rehydrate them, all of that intense woody beer that has been trapped in the wood is unlocked and it goes back into the whisky," says McMahon.
The resulting Jameson Caskmates Young Henrys Edition displays "new notes of caramel, malt and subtle hops all supported by a mild pot still spiciness", according to the distiller.
Back to the source
The Young Henrys crew followed their barrels back to Ireland in June where they were immersed in the craftsmanship behind their whiskey.
They spent time with fifth generation master cooper Ger Buckley and head of whiskey science David Quinn, who pioneered the idea of exchanging barrels that resulted in the original Jameson Caskmates Stout Edition, a collaboration between Jameson and Franciscan Well Brewery in Cork, Ireland.
"Making a great beer or a great whiskey comes down to collaborations and friendships, both of which have driven innovation and discovery throughout Jameson's history," comments Quinn.
"Young Henry's have a passion for making great beer, but also different types of beer and experimenting is at the heart of what they do – which is what we here at Jameson love to do as well."
McMahon recalls the thrill of Quinn pulling a cask strength barrel of the Young Henrys whiskey out of the warehouse so that the Australians could sample it for the first time.
"I was really nervous when we went to try it, but I totally love the whisky. It's really light, it has a nice long spicy dry finish," he says.
"We did a bunch of comparative tastings between Jameson Original, Jameson Young Henrys Caskmates and the Caskmates Stout Edition and they are three noticeably different products.
"You can really taste the barrel and some of the spicy malts that we used in the beer.
"It was really nice to do tastings with the people from Jameson to see how much they really liked the product as well."
McMahon says it was encouraging to see Jameson still operating essentially like a craft distiller, in spite of it being part of the €31 billion ($46.4 billion) French wine and spirits giant Pernod Ricard.
"Jameson, from everything that we could see, runs as its own silo business. They still make the product like we do, it's still a craft product," he says.
"It's amazing to see a company that big, still running with a really beautiful human element, it still feels like a smaller business."
Where you can get it
Jameson Caskmates Young Henrys Edition is $59.99 a bottle, a very reasonable price for a limited edition whiskey from a renowned distiller.
"It's less of a money-making exercise for them. I think they're trying to show the market that they are a relatively nimble and forward thinking company, and that they are interested in working on interesting projects with likeminded people," says McMahon.
An extremely limited amount of the whiskey will be available in Vintage Cellars outlets from early October.
It will also be served in selected bars around Australia as part of a joint boilermaker promotion from early October, where it will be paired with a Young Henrys Newtowner Australian Pale Ale.